More than 500 people showed up to support Fort Benning during its Army listening session Wednesday, with local leaders and lawmakers emphasizing the close relationship and varied partnerships between Columbus, Ga., and the post.
Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson highlighted the scenic gateway project on Victory Drive greeting soldiers and visitors to Benning. Tomlinson also cited a joint recycling effort, improvements at the region’s water treatment plant and a veterans court, reported the Ledger-Enquirer.
“You are our neighbor,” she said. “Fort Benning is our community partner and you are our family.”
At stake as the Army figures out how to shrink its active-duty end strength from 490,000 to 420,000 by fiscal 2020 is the potential for the installation to lose up to 9,493 soldiers and 1,274 civilian workers. The Army faces $95 billion in budget cuts over the next 10 years, Col. Karl Konzelman told the audience gathered at the Columbus Convention & Trade Center.
Georgia Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R) underscored the federal, state and local investment in Fort Benning, its personnel and their families, including $3.5 billion at the post and $3.2 billion for schools, infrastructure and other improvements.
Brig. Gen. Roger Cloutier from Army headquarters told local residents and officials that the story they tell is a key part of the input the service will consider as it makes decisions about this second round of restructuring.
“The Pentagon is a long way from Fort Benning and the Columbus area,” Cloutier said. “That story is what we want to bring back to senior leaders.”